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Air Canada caps Yellowknife flight prices as crews battle wildfires

Aug 17 (Reuters) – Air Canada (AC.TO) said it is capping fares and adding flights on Thursday from Yellowknife, a northern Canadian city facing an evacuation order due to wildfires, as social media users complain of soaring prices by multiple carriers.

Canadian fire crews battled on Thursday to prevent wildfires from reaching Yellowknife, where all 20,000 residents are leaving by car and plane.

“We have put in place a cap on our fares for non-stop flights out of Yellowknife,” said Air Canada, the country’s largest carrier, in a statement. They also denied price gouging and said they were working with authorities on how long they could continue flying in the area.

The carrier said it added two extra flights on Thursday and an additional flight on Friday.

WestJet Airlines, the country’s second largest carrier, said it has taken steps to avoid fare escalation and has added a flight.

By Thursday afternoon, Air Canada’s website showed there were no flights available connecting Yellowknife to Calgary, which has committed to accommodate up to 5,000 evacuees, until Monday. One way flights on the site for Friday were listed for as low as C$303 ($223.72).

Air Canada said it has cancelled flights out of Yellowknife on Saturday to comply with the evacuation order given by the Northwest Territories government.

WestJet said it has cancelled six flights on Friday and Saturday.

Inuit-owned airline Canadian North said in a statement it had cancelled its Yellowknife commercial flights starting on Friday but those aircraft would be deployed to assist government-led evacuation efforts.

Earlier in the day, an image showing a C$4,665 flight ticket from Yellowknife to Calgary caused outrage on social media, with some users accusing Air Canada of taking advantage of increased demand from forced evacuees.

“This is how Air Canada plans on helping?” a Northwest Territories resident wrote on Facebook, tagging the airline.

In fact, the referenced fare which appeared on travel booking sites was not for a direct Air Canada flight, but rather involved trips with three stops operated by different carriers.

It was not clear who set the prices that high.

Canada’s Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez is speaking with Air Canada on Thursday to receive an update on the situation on the ground, a spokesperson said.

($1 = 1.3544 Canadian dollars)

Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Ismail Shakhil in Ottawa; Editing by Josie Kao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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